Thursday, December 31, 2015

And A Glimmer Of Hope, As Well, For The New Year

I had a flat tire on New Year's Eve.  No kidding.  Not an ideal night for having a flat tire, if there is such a thing.  Especially as it happened in Virgina, as I was travelling home from work, and I still had over 40 miles to go.  And very little hope of getting help.

Or so it seemed.

Fortunately, I am a AAA member, and called for help.  It came in relatively surprising speed and, as it turned out, with even greater efficiency.

I was expecting at best that the roadside assistance worker who came to my aid would put on my spare tire, and I would make it back to Baltimore wondering if I could get my tire replaced in time for me to return to work in Virginia this weekend, given the fact that the intervening day would be New Year's Day.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  My AAA contractor found that my tire had been punctured by a nail, and believed that he could fix it.  Frankly, I didn't share his optimism, but decided to give him a chance.  It would spare me a weekend headache if he could.

And, as it turned out, he did fix it, with the result that, however belatedly, I was able to complete my drive home tonight on the same four tires I had this morning, and was able to see in the new year with my wife in the comfort of our home.

There is, however, another dimension to this story that is worth sharing.

The AAA contractor was a middle-aged, Central American native whose English was a lot less than perfect.  It occurred to me how many people would focus on that fact, and allow themselves to get unreasonably upset over it, perhaps to the point of calling AAA and demanding that someone else come out to help them.  Naturally, I didn't do that and, as a consequence, I benefited from the man's expertise in fixing my tire.

Sadly, we as a nation talk about immigrants in the most condescending way imaginable, forgetting that those who came before us were strangers and sojourners in this land originally.  They were equally incomprehensible to the natives they encountered.  And they treated not only those natives very badly, but also treated badly the Africans they brought over here by force to work for them.  Not many of them would have offered aid, as my AAA contractor was able and willing to offer me.

And, because we believe our own mythology about manifest destiny, we overlook our sins of the past and treat immigrants in the present as not-quite-worthy objects of our compassion.  We imagine that it is the immigrants alone who benefit from immigration.  It is much harder to see ourselves as part of the same immigration narrative that has benefited all of us (the slaves and the natives excepted) who have come to these shores.

We do indeed save immigrants.  But they also save us, by renewing our society with their energy, their loyalty, their talent and their compassion, the compassion that stems from an abiding awareness of their own good fortune, and a concomitant need to share that good fortune with others.  My wife has worked tirelessly to save many immigrants, and I have helped her do so. Tonight, I got saved by one.

I wished him a Happy New Year, and do so again here.  I wish all of us a Happy New Year, one whose happiness stems from a deep-seated knowledge of our need for each other, and an appreciation of how immigration has, and always will, help to fill that need.

A Concern For Our Nation In 2016

It's actually 2016 here in Baltimore as I'm writing this.  I'm fond of saying that years ending with a 6 have been lucky for me because, as a general rule, they have been.  I find myself not so sure that this year will be a lucky one for this country.  It may instead be the beginning of its end.

I'm not talking about the seemingly unending presidential race when I say this, although anyone who's watched the Republican side of this process, as it has unfolded through the media, might understandably believe that I'm referring to that.  I'm not even talking about political leaders generally.  I'm talking about we, the people, and our national temperament.

Our politics, the medium through which our democracy is supposed to mediate and resolve its problems, has become little more than a vehicle for dividing us to an extent that seem, at the moment, to be irreconcilable.  This has happened as a consequence of more than thirty years of trickle-up economics.  Give to those who already have so much, and those folks will transform it into more for all of us.  That was the theory.  It is not the reality.

The reality is that giving the folks who already had so much simply gave them the wherewithal to do what they have always wanted to do:  to effectively purchase the rest of the country.  This is so painfully obvious that even the poor, undereducated white male voters that make up the GOP base have turned on their former masters.  Thus far, their former masters have kept them at bay largely by reminding them of how much both the exploited and the exploiters hate the people who act like they have all of the answers because, in fact, they do have many of them--educated liberals, who are also compassionate enough to help even people who hate them.

But this process of reminding hasn't restored the former unity between the exploiters and the exploited.  It has simply filled the exploited with a burning desire to buy as many guns as possible, and shoot anyone and everyone they don't like, whether those people have a "D" or an "R" after their names.  And it has even raised the question not only of whether democracy can survive, but also whether or not the United States itself can survive.  You need only read articles like this one, as well as this one, to understand why I feel that way.  I would be surprised if, after you read them, you don't feel the same way as I do.

And if in fact the U.S. were to break up into one or more nations, there is no guarantee that the breakup, or its aftermath, would be peaceful.  It has been decades since this country has seen any kind of systematic violence from the left.  But no one should think that the potential for that brand of violence to re-surface doesn't exist.  That potential, right now, manifests itself in relatively small ways.  But those small ways are the tip of a giant iceberg of anger among many on the left who feel, not without reason, that their nominal leaders have largely abandoned them.

Whither America in 2016?  Jump ball, in my opinion.  The proverbial hinge of fate could swing either way.  No nation is guaranteed an indefinite life and, given the fact that decay is the natural order of things, no one should assume that our nation does not have an expiration date.

But, to borrow the last line of the movie "Gladiator," not yet, not yet.  Or, at least, I hope not. Rather, I hope, and I pray, that this year ending in 6 will good for us all, as well as me.

The Beauty Of New York's Subways

As documented by an artist devoted to celebrating that beauty.

How To Solve The Problem Of Plastic Waste

Tiny worms, of all things.

Why We Need National-Level Gun Control

Because the states, those "laboratories of democracy" conservatives love to talk about, prove that it works on the state level.

Why We Desperately Need The NEA

It's very simple:  to prevent the 1%-ing of our nation's culture.  You can read more about this here.

How Easy Is It To Get Guns?

Let this New York Times article show you.

How To Fight The New American Aristocracy

By battling offshore tax havens, as outlined in a new book, which you can read about here.

The Worst Sort Of 9/11 Deniers

One of the problems of challenging conservative dogma is that, as a preface, you're forced to repeat the obvious, just to inoculate yourself from undeserved ad hominem attacks.  So here goes.

9/11 was a terrible tragedy for our nation, for the victims and their families and friends, and generally for the cause of freedom and peace around the world.  The perpetrators deserve our condemnation and our punishment.  Nothing excuses their murderous actions.

But, like it or not, several things explain why there actions are possible.  And, even in America, even with a conservative government, sometimes we are part of the explanation.  Whether we like it or not.

Here is someone named Paul Sperry, doing the one thing with 9/11 that dishonors the victims the most; turning their tragedy into political ammunition for the right, especially as part of their ongoing attacks on higher education.  All because some professors on some college campuses are daring to suggest that we, the people of this country, and some of our leaders, may have inadvertently contributed to the first terrible world tragedy of the 21st century.

Once again, conservatism dies on contact with the truth.

Because, whether Mr. Sperry wants to acknowledge it or not, the fact is that our actions did in fact contribute to the events on that terrible day.

We hired Osama bin Laden and his followers as our official proxies in fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.  We abandoned both him and his followers once they were no longer useful to us.  And then allowed his hatred of all things American to fester, to metastasize into a desire to manipulate the nation that abandoned him through murder of the innocents.

And he knew that he could do it.  Because, like it or not, he understands Americans better than many Americans understand themselves.  He know that conservative Americans, and their leaders, are nothing more than hammers that see every problem as a nail.  And he knew that he could manipulate that tendency to accomplish his ultimate goal:  to get America to turn on itself and, potentially, self-destruct.

And we have, indeed, turned on ourselves.

We have transformed ourselves into a police state, with little dissent and even unbridled enthusiasm, We fought a war based on false pretenses, one that cost trillions of dollars and, far worse, thousands of brave and noble young lives.  And, on top of that, we still do business with the Saudis, the people who breed the brand of Islam that rises up to kill us.  All because our "leaders" can't wean themselves off of the oil money that pays for their careers, and costs us our nation and its ideals.

Osama may be dead, but he may have already won, unless we can somehow learn that our propensity for trying to manipulate world events comes back to bite us almost every time.  To say nothing of our propensity for being manipulated.  Trust me:  there are Muslims who have learned that lesson of 9/11 very well, and who even now are planning to destroy us with what they have learned.

We can only turn all of this around by staring it in face in the first place.  Even if that results in a national rebuke (say, next November) of American conservatism, which is what the Paul Sperrys of the world are really afraid of.  We might as well begin on college campuses.  That's where the next generation of Americans is beginning its adulthood.  Maybe the lessons they learn will help to re-make America in the image of its founders, and not in the image of Mr. Sperry, who represents the worst sort of 9/11 deniers.

Wall Street Afraid Of Republicans?

It's true.  Nothing illustrates how lost the GOP is more than this does, either.

Nothing Illustrates Our Gun Insanity More Than This Does

Owing money to the gun dealer who sold the ammunition that killed your child.  Disgusting.

How To Respond To Pope Francis' Conservative Critics

As explained by Fox News' Shepard Smith.


Or, one more reason why I'm proud of my alma mater.

You Can't Say You Love Baseball If You Didn't Love Yogi (And I Don't Care HOW MUCH You Hate The Yankees)

Here's Mike Lupica to explain why.

Thankfully, They Failed

Republicans, that is, in trying to sabatoge a global climate deal.  And now, Obama has another legacy item, and the world perhaps has a cleaner, brighter future.

Is "American Exceptionalism" All It's Cracked Up To Be?

American exceptionalism.  It's the new, Obama-age battle-cry of American conservatism.  It was the foundation of their attack on Obama's earliest efforts to launch health care reform.  America should be celebrated, in their minds, for the fact that it doesn't offer free, universal access to health care, unlike every other industrialized society in the world.  That makes us different from the rest of the world, and therefore, for that reason alone, makes us better than the rest of the world.

Even though health care is more expensive than it is anywhere else in the world.

Even though Americans have to leave the country just to get treatment and medicines that are routinely available in other countries.

Even though tens of millions of Americans have no access to health care at all.

Even though medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcies.

Just doesn't matter.  If anything, all of the above proves just how exceptional we are.

Not prosperous.  Not happy.  Not optimistic.  Just exceptional.

That exceptional status is cold comfort to millions of Americans who can only dream of living in a country where the economic problems that crush so many people simply don't exist.  Not to the extent that they exist here, anyway.

Like Norway, recently voted the world's best country for the 12th year in a row.

Or Germany, a social democracy with more billionaires than every European country but one.

The conditions in these countries have a very simple explanation.  In Europe, even in a county like Germany with a very conservative government, people are completely unafraid of a very simple word.


Socialism is associated in this country with top-down societies where power is concentrated in the hands of a privileged few.  Hmmm ... guess than means America under 30 years of Republican politics must be a socialist country.  After all, their policies are why things they way they are here.

But what if socialism really means something else?

What if socialism is simply the idea that society is more prosperous and more dynamic if the wealth of nations is more evenly shared among the peoples of the nations that produce it?  And remember, Adam Smith called it "The Wealth of Nations," not "The Wealth of a Handful of Kleptocrats."

What if socialism simply meant "We're all in this together, we all produce the fruits of our labors together, we should share them in a way that promotes the individual interests not just of a few individuals, but every individual."

What would be so bad about that?  It works everywhere around the world.  Everywhere but America, where it's never been tried.  Not in the country that could more easily afford it than any other.

Because, remember, its all about the exceptional, folks.  Without being exceptional, we're not really Americans.

Maybe it's time we start asking who this "exceptionalism" really benefits.  And then, start electing more people like this one.

Wouldn't that be a pretty exceptional thing for the New Year?  I think so.

And It's Not Just The Rich Asking For It

Raising taxes, that is.  Managers are asking for it, too.

Maybe This Is What It Takes To Raise Taxes On The Rich

That is to say, rich people coming forward and asking for it.

Carly Fiorina Didn't ALWAYS Hate Hillary

It was a very differnt story back in 2008.

The Affordability Of Immigration

It more than pays for itself.  When are we all going to wake up to that fact?

And Sanders Might Be An Affordable President, Too

Take a look.

Maybe Bernie Sanders WOULD Be A Successful President ...

... if he can win the support of a Liberty University graduate.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

By All Means, Put A Price Tag On Progressive Values

One of my greatest frustrations over the years with the course of Democratic campaigns is the manner in which they treat the issue of taxes.  They have allowed Republicans to turn what Oliver Wendell Holmes rightly described as the price for civilization into a partisan weapon, as if the market-place Confidence Fairy was all that was needed to grant them the things they want the government to provide, from M1 Abrams tanks to vaginal wands.  Or, for that matter, as though paying for all of the things all of us need with debt instead of cash was somehow a more "conservative" way of financing the national government.

A big part of the problem is that Democrats have allowed Republicans to talk in not-so-glittering generalities, linking "taxes" and "tax increases" on "wasteful spending" and "social programs."  The reality is that 80 cents of every tax dollars goes to pay for three things;  Social Security (including Medicare), defense spending, and interest on the national debt.  In other words, three of the most sacred cows there are when it comes to the U.S. budget.  By the time you get thought most of the remaining 20 cents, past things like education and transportation spending (again, broadly supported) you're down to maybe a penny or so for those awful "social programs."  And some of those, like unemployment insurance, are things that people can't do without in tough times.

See what I just did?  I got rid of all of the empty rhetoric about "waste, fraud, and abuse," and actually turned the federal tax-and-spend debate into something that uses numbers everybody can understand.  It's not such an original idea:  Ronald Reagan did something like this during his first year in office, in an attempt to illustrate the damage done to the U.S. dollar by inflation (and to sell specious tax cuts that did far more damage to the dollar than inflation ever did).  And it played a role in redefining the discussion about federal spending that persists to this day.

Why can't Democrats do the same thing?  Well, as it turns out, maybe they can, as Bernie Sanders showed during the most recent Democratic presidential debate.  Sanders was attacked by Hillary Clinton for proposing a plan that she claimed would require an unaffordable hike on middle-class taxes.  It was classic Bill-and-Hillary rhetoric:  out-GOP the GOP when it comes to protecting the middle class on taxes.  But Bernie turned the tables on her rather cleverly:
Now, when Secretary Clinton says, “I’m not going raise taxes on the middle class,” let me tell you what she is saying. She is disagreeing with FDR on Social Security, LBJ on Medicare and with the vast majority of progressive Democrats in the House and the Senate, who today are fighting to end the disgrace of the United States being the only major country on Earth that doesn’t provide paid family and medical leave.
What the legislation is is $1.61 a week. Now, you can say that’s a tax on the middle class. It will provide three months paid family and medical leave for the working families of this country. I think, Secretary Clinton, $1.61 a week is a pretty good investment.
See what Bernie did?  He did what I did a few minutes ago.  He costed out his thinking in a way that gave the American people a kitchen-table view of the cost of his proposal.  $1.61 a week.  Not even the cost of busfare.

And here's where it could get really interesting.  What if you paired that kitchen-table analysis with something that wasn't a  middle-class tax hike, like a tax on derivatives or a reduction of corporate subsides.  What capitalist takes pride in taking money from the government?  Only in America.  Let's see how much pride the GOP takes in that form of American exceptionalism.

This isn't brain surgery (except, perhaps, to Ben Carson).  This is so easy.  All that's needed is a Democrat who's willing to pick up the rhetorical baton Bernie provided and run with it.  And it wouldn't hurt if the DNC stopped scheduling debates for nights when nobody is watching, in an effort to protect Hillary from her own mistakes.  Memo to Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz:  You've got a good product.  Find a better way to market it.

The Case For Impeaching Justice Scalia

It seems that the Constitution provides a somewhat lower standard for allowing federal judges to continue in office than the standard established for Presidents.  Whereas Article II, Section 4 only allows impeachment of Presidents for "high Crimes and Misdemeanors," federal judges, including of course the Justices of the Supreme Court, are allowed to continue in office so long as they exhibit "good Behaviour" (Article III, Section 1).

Hmm.  Good Behaviour.  Wonder what conservatives think about that British spelling in the founding document of American exceptionalism?  Oh, well, never mind.  My point is that, in exchange for a lifetime opportunity to rule upon legal issues that not only affect Americans but everyone else in the world, "good Behaviour" doesn't seem like an awful lot to expect in return.  And, of course, one person's good Behaviour is another person's unconscionable treason.  It's something of an eye-of-the-beholder thing, isn't it?

Except, perhaps for the case of Antonin "Nino" Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Now, Nino has, over the years, distinguished himself in a number of ways.  There has been his refusal to recuse himself in a number of cases in which he possesses an interest, a friendship, or some other connection that might, well, influence his decision about the outcome.  There was his decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which he decided that half of the language of the Second Amendment (the half that conservatives don't like) simply doesn't exist (or doesn't matter; read the decision and you be the judge, pun intended).  And, of course, there are those rhetorical flourishes that right-wing voiceboxes like George Will like to view as possessing "scathing wisdom."  Take, for example, Scalia's recent dissent in the most recent failed attempt to get the Supreme Court to gut Obamacare, in which he dismissed the majority opinion as "pure applesauce." Applesauce?  Wow. Feel the pain from an insult like that.

All of these episodes arguably can be seen as examples of something less than truly "good Behaviour," meaning that a case could be made with one or more of them that good ol' Nino should appear in the well of the U.S. Senate at the center of an impeachment trial.  But, just in case the above-listed indiscretions don't do it for you, I invite you to consider this.

Now, I believe that eveyone is entitled to their opinion.  But not every opinion is entitled to belong on the nation's court of last resort.  And if there is one thing that all of us should expect from every judge behind every bench, it is not that they should be perfectly experienced, or perfectly wise.  But they can and must be as perfectly fair as possible.  And it is impossible to treat people fairly if you are someone who is astonishingly upfront about your view that all African-Americans are slow learners. Just because that description might apply to Clarence Thomas, Scalia's fellow Associate Justice and second vote on the Court, that doesn't mean it applies to black students at the University of Texas. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

So I respectfully submit to you that Scalia's demonstrated, almost prideful lack of fairness is the exact opposite of "good Behaviour."  And that everyone in this county who still gives a right royal damn about fairness ought to contact their Members of Congress and demand Scalia's impeachment. Right now.  Before he can take even one more step to turn the Constitution into pure applesauce.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sorry, Frank Bruni, But Larry Hogan Isn't A "Moderate" Republican--But, Then Again, Who Is, And Who Cares?

Periodically, some misguided member of the mainstream media will breathlessly announce to a world that no longer cares (if it ever did) that he or she has FINALLY found what all of us, in the collective eyes of the mainstream media, definitely want and need in political office--a "moderate" Republican. Most recently, this quest was declared at a successful end by Frank Bruni of the New York Times, who authored this unbelievable puff-piece on my state's current accidental GOP Governor, Larry Hogan.  Hogan, who stumbled into office thanks to a spectacularly inept campaign by his Democratic opponent, then-incumbent Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, has also benefited politically from a tough blow dealt him by fate: a cancer diagnosis that he has, thankfully, fought successfully.

Bruni's tribute to Hogan understandably shows respect for that fight.  But it then attempts to use that fight as a jumping-off point to paying tribute to Hogan's allegedly "moderate" style of politics.  It emphasizes statistics (poll numbers) and an avoidance of hot-button issues that have helped push the national Republican Party somewhere to the right of Ivan the Terrible.  It overlooks the fact that neither Hogan nor his health struggles have fundamentally changed the basically blue disposition of Maryland's politics.  He was not elected to impose Tea-Party policies on a state too sane to embrace them.  He was elected along with a state legislature that added Democrats to its ranks.  It isn't "moderate" to avoid hot-button issues under those circumstances.  It's Politics 101: the art of survival in a world where you know you don't really belong.

And, if moderation is to be found in policies or personal tendencies, Hogan is anything but a "moderate."  Bruni's article glosses over his dispute with Democrats on education spending, as if it was merely a tussle over numbers.  It is, in fact, a tussle over Hogan's willingness to use money that the General Assembly has formally appropriated for that purpose, as well as his attempts to steer that money toward favored constituencies, whether needed or not.

There is nothing "moderate" about taking one of government's most fundamental responsibilities, education, and turning it into a patronage program.  It's old-fashioned, brass-knuckled, machine-style politics.  The fact that it's being done with a smile, as well as a Korean wife and an African-American governor, doesn't change its basic nature.  Hogan isn't a "moderate" Republican; he's a mentee of Chris Christie, another Republican governor touted as a "moderate" because he governs a blue state, but one whose style of governing.  Perhaps Hogan has not blocked any bridges, but that doesn't diminish the bullying treatment he has given an issue that should be as above politics as any other.

Oh, wait.  He has in fact blocked a bridge.  This brings up something even worse than Hogan's abuse of education:  his treatment of the city of Baltimore, in the wake of last spring's riots. Rather than offering a middle-of-the-road approach that attempted to bridge the political, economic and social gaps between an African-American metropolis and its lily-white suburbs, Hogan took an axe to a project that would quite literally have built such a bridge:  the Red Line transit project that would have connected some of Baltimore's most troubled neighborhoods with suburbs to the west and east. Make no mistake:  this was not only a calculated punishment of city government, but also a response to white fear of black "criminals," in counties that supported Hogan in a major way.  The NAACP and the ACLU aren't fooled, and neither should the rest of us be.

So, as it turns out, the media search for a "moderate" Republican must go on.  But why does it need to exist in the first place?  What is "moderate" politics, really?  Is moderation just a question of giving each side 50% of what it wants?  Or, in a true marketplace of ideas, does it mean that both sides agree that one side might have some good ideas about some things, while the other side has better ideas about other things?  I'd like to believe it's the latter; after all, 50% of a bad idea is still bad--period.

And why must the "moderate" be a Republican?  Why not a moderate Democrat?  Regardless of how you define the concept of moderation in politics, it seems to me that there are more "moderates" in the Democratic Party than there are in the GOP, the latter now being focused not on running for office, but running off a right-wing cliff.  Is this just an artifact of the mainstream media's desire to not fit the "liberal press" stereotype?  I would hope not; it's never a good idea to be defined by your fears.

In any case, don't look for moderation from Larry Hogan.  He doesn't mind being seen that way, as long as it allows him to govern in a very different way.  Trust me, Mr. Bruni:  if you look a bit beyond the poll numbers, you'll start to see a lot of buyer's remorse.  Come 2018, I guarantee that you and everyone else will see a lot more.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Real Lesson Of San Bernardino

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the reaction of conservatives to the San Bernardino tragedy was as predictable as it was utterly wrong:  "thoughts and prayers" for the victims, and massive, utterly reflexive denunciations of immigrants otherwise, based solely on the fact that the female half of the husband-and-wife shooting team came to the United States on a K-1, or so-called "fiancee," visa from Saudi Arabia (although she was originally from Pakistan).

Never mind the fact that this is yet another tragedy that speaks to our willingness to make weapons so available that any jihadist can obtain them with little or no trouble.

Never mind the fact that, like the 9/11 attackers, the shooters in this case are not among the undocumented (or, if you will, "illegal") human beings currently present in the U.S., thanks to our unbelievably broken immigration system and our unbelievable unwillingness to take even the simplest, most practical steps to fix it.

And never mind the fact that the victims, as well as their families and friends, don't give a right royal damn about the thoughts and prayers of politicians with no interest in their suffering other than figuring out self-serving ways by which to exploit it.  (Incidentally, that's why calling out the aforesaid politicians in question is not "prayer-shaming," whatever the hell that is.  It is, in the words of the late, great Howard Cosell, telling it like it is.  A holy hypocrite is still a hypocrite; there's no shame in pointing that out, and there's certainly no disrespect to G-d in doing so.  In fact, I suspect that G-d would absolutely insist on our doing it.)

No, this is yet another golden electoral opportunity to focus on the one and only thing that holds the Grand Old Party together:  hatred of non-white people.

Sadly, in the process, two rather important points get buried in the process.

First, as was the case with the 9/11 attackers, the immigrant shooter in this case came into the country through the front door, fully vetted by the agencies and the process proscribed by law to welcome people into the country through the front door.  She passed though a process designed to be as thorough and careful as it is to be rigorous, and was allowed to come into the country without reservations.  She married a U.S. citizen to whom she was engaged, and therefore fulfilled the condition under which her visa was granted.

Second, despite desperate and dishonest Republican attempts to blame that process for allowing her to come to and stay in the U.S., the early analysis of the tragedy blunts any suggestion that she was any part of a terrorist organization at the time she arrived in the U.S.  If anything, that analysis suggests that any jihadist intentions that may have lain behind the shootings may have been part of a process of "self-radicalization."  In other words, she came to the U.S. without a jihadist mindset, and developed one while she was here.

Which should make a point to even the dullest of conservative minds.

In the so-called war on terror, we are not fighting one or more nations.  We are not fighting one or more peoples.  We are not even fighting an entire religion.  We are fighting a specific, twisted version of that religion believed in and spread by people for no other reason than to inspire fear--and, by extension, to gain power through that fear.  Putting it more simply, as did recently, we are fighting an idea, as well as the freedom to believe in and follow that idea.

And, as we should have learned in what we like to call the American Century, you don't fight a battle of ideas with hot power.  You fight it with cold power.  You fight it by accepting the nature of the battle, and waging a battle of ideas with better ideas.  You fight it by preaching and showing the superiority of tolerance, of understanding, of cooperation.  You fight by advancing knowledge, not by retreating behind fear.  To do the latter is to fight the enemy's battle on the enemy's turf.  Yes, there's an espionage, and even a military, component in the battle.  But their existence and purpose is to supplement the main battle:  the battle of ideas.

Even a battle of ideas has casualties; all battles do.  But, in both the short and long run, there will be fewer causalities than there would be in a hot war.  And that will be true, in no small part, because we won't be allowing the enemy to recruit in our midst.  That's the reason why San Bernardino is, if anything, an argument for comprehensive immigration reform that advances the idea of America as a place of refuge, and not a fortress for a lucky few.

And, sadly, it must be said once again, San Bernardino is also an argument to stop handing out guns and pretending that doing so produces safely.  If leftists in Scotland and conservatives in Australia can come to that conclusion, why the bloody hell (literally) can't we?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Landmarking Is Good For The Cost Of Living

For example, it helps New Yorkers live in rent-stabilized apartments.

It Isn't Worth Deporting The Undocumented

Literally.  Try half-a-trillion dollars (plus or minus) over two decades.  Where is Trump (or anyone else, for that matter) going to get that kind of money?

Anti-Immigration Sentiment Is Pro-White Sentiment

And this is shown in the history between the 1965 reform law, which tilted immigration to America away from Europe and toward the Western Hemisphere, as a consequence of the conflux of the need to fight the Cold War with idealism, and to advance domestic civil rights in the same way.

Nobody's complaining about folks coming from Canada, after all.  Are they, eh?

An Alternative For London's Underground?

Or, at least, part of it.  And this might work for other cities as well, like New York, which has already recycled the old High Line as a major tourist attraction.

Is The South Hopeless For Democrats?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

The True Meaning Of Christmas

Sometimes, it emerges from terrible personal tragedy.  Read this, and then send her a card.  I am.

It's Not A Choice Between The Environment And The Economy

It's choosing both.  And choosing both can be worth as much as 17 trillion dollars.

When It Comes To Abortion, I've Said This All Along

It's not a pro-life movement.  It's not even an anti-abortion movement.  It's an anti-sex movement. It always has been and, for however long it stays around, it always will be.  I'm grateful that other people are finally realizing this.

Two Crises That Are, In Fact, One

Climate change and refugees.  Take a look.

Can A City Be Made Trash-Free?

Apparently, in Sweden, it's already happening.

The Impact Of Superhero Themes

By which this author means theme music for superhero movies.  If you're interested in this general subject, it's a very good read, and listen as well.  My major reflection, upon reading this, is the reminder of how music operates like a time machine.  Every time I hear the theme from the 1979 "Superman" film with Christopher Reeve, it slices 36 years off my life in the best possible way. Forget about "Man of Steel" and mopey Henry Cavill.  If you want to see "Superman" done right, and American pop culture at its very best, go back to the original.  And see if it doesn't stick with you a lot longer than MOS.  It's just that good.

Jimmy Carter And Election Reform

Read this if you want to get even a small idea of what we lost when we replaced Jimmy Carter with Ronald Reagan.  And be all the more grateful for the cancer-free diagnosis he has recently received.